Taylor Nelson is a project analyst who supports both Textron Systems’ ShadowⓇ and AerosondeⓇ unmanned aircraft systems. In addition to working at Textron Systems for the past five years, Taylor is a trained pilot and unmanned systems operator. Leaning on his experience with flight operations, he has a great depth of accuracy in obtaining data in challenging times. These skills were put to the test when Taylor was deployed to assist in the Hurricane Harvey disaster response. In a brief interview, Taylor discusses his experience.
What were you doing out in Texas?
I grouped up with a few fire rescue departments from the state of Tennessee. I would roll up with them in the morning and go deploy to a disaster area. I provided aerial support throughout the operation — typically door to door, search and rescue style.
What was it like rapidly deploying to a U.S.-based disaster zone?
I’ve done five overseas deployments in the past that have all required quick turnarounds. I’m very used to packing a bag and just going somewhere on the spot. Things were changing every minute, so being adaptable was key.
What are the complexities of working in such a ravaged environment?
Finding locations with electricity proved to be difficult. I often found areas that were completely inaccessible, which were tough to navigate. Being there in person was quite a sobering experience.
How are UAS uniquely capable of providing help to responders in these situations?
I was airborne in no time. I was able to take off and land in a very confined space in just a few minutes. I stood on a lawn with the fire chief, where we both monitored the situation. People on the scene were given a deeper level of awareness by our monitoring capabilities.
There were apartments even inaccessible by boats which we were able to monitor safely from the air. We sent video over in real time to emergency operation centers in Tennessee, Texas and Maryland.
What lessons did the team take away from the experience?
We learned a lot throughout this experience. One of the biggest challenges in a disaster zone is coordinating air assets. Getting this coordination done ahead of time with the Federal Aviation Administration can provide groundwork for us to be even more productive when we arrive.
For more information, contact the Textron Systems Civil & Commercial team.
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